Posts Tagged ‘science’


October 22, 2012

“Yes, it’s those bloody scientists again. If they can’t even predict such a simple thing as an unpredictable natural disaster, of course they should be held responsible for all the destruction! I mean, what are we supposed to do? We don’t have magical powers or see visions, do we? Look, just look at the state of that altar! Awful.”


February 16, 2012

So, oxytocin isn’t the universal love hormone everyone (let’s be honest, mostly hippies) expected it to be. It turns out that in some cases it can amplify envy, schadenfreude, even xenophobia.

Of course this comes as no surprise to anyone who’s ever heard a sentence starting with “Speaking as a mother…”


October 18, 2010

“Humour is no laughing matter.”
Frigyes Karinthy

Science can tackle almost all aspects of our world successfully, from why distant clusters of galaxies appear to have a funny shape to why people are pushing and shoving around an airport baggage carousel.

But science doesn’t quite work when applied to the subject of comedy.

A man goes to the supermarket once a week and buys a dead chicken. But before cooking the chicken, he has sexual intercourse with it. Then he cooks the chicken and eats it.

Using a chicken carcass for masturbatory purposes violates widely held moral norms concerning bestiality and necrophilia. Consequently, most people are disgusted by this behavior and consider it wrong (Haidt et al., 1993). However, for several reasons, the behavior can simultaneously seem benign and thus be amusing.

First, it is harmless—after all, the chicken was already dead—and therefore acceptable according to a moral norm based on harm (Haidt et al., 1993). Second, as unlikely as it may seem, some people may not be strongly committed to the violated sexual norms (Haidt & Hersh, 2001). Third, the scenario seems hypothetical and thus psychologically distant.

The benign-violation hypothesis predicts that people who see the behavior as both a violation and benign will be amused. Those who do not simultaneously see both
interpretations will not be amused.

It just doesn’t, I’m telling you.

(source: Benign Violations : Making Immoral Behavior Funny)

Lol and behold

May 1, 2010

Science is weird and wonderful.

Science made us realise that if you ate five portions of fruit and veg a day,  it reduces the risk of cancer by 50%. And science told us that actually it’s just 2.5%. Well, I guess it’s the taking part that matters.

The wild swing is hardly a surprise though; people are notoriously squishy and wobbly, and not only literally but also as subjects of scientific examination  It isn’t fair to medical scientists. Astronomers can be much more laid back about their subjects, the object that appears to move four times faster than light in the galaxy M82 isn’t going to kick up a fuss when astronomers describe it with the words “We don’t know what it is”. They can give their papers titles more befitting to a Victorian horror story, like “The shocking size of Comet McNaught”. They can even propose that a dwarf planet be called Rupert. (Okay, they haven’t done that last one, but they could’ve done it.)

But undoubtedly environmental scientists have it the worst. Not only do they have to cope with immense political pressure and public expectations, their subject appears to be simple to everyone but them. I mean, how hard can it be to watch the thermometers, then plot a line between the data points? They also have to be very serious about their job, they can’t even reduce the pressure with a joke. The death of our beloved planet is no laughing matter after all.

No wonder it came as a shock to them when they found out.that the thawing of nitrous oxide deposits is faster than previously estimated. So the bad news is that we’re all gonna die, but at least we’ll be able to see the funny side of it.